10 July 2023

Here I am, send me! How do you sit with God?

Major Andrew Vertigan

Major Andrew Vertigan reflects on the difference sitting in the presence of God can make.

Key text

I travel a lot in my role and life. I love adventures and journeys but I’m also renowned for getting lost and leaving things behind. I often wonder why the satnav never seems to take me directly where I want to go, or the trains I need aren’t running. Why aren’t things easy and straightforward?

Pause and reflect

  • Where did you start your journey today?
  • Did the day map out differently to what you were expecting?

These past few years, one of my biggest struggles has been being stuck at home. You might say my wings have been clipped! At times, I’ve felt unable to fly, to adventure and explore. I’ve felt stuck.

As I thought about our study passage, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this what has happened to God’s Church in the West? Have we become stuck? Stuck in our buildings? Stuck in our ways?

An internet search on how General William and Catherine Booth started The Salvation Army reveals that it began ‘in 1865 as a means to help the suffering souls throughout London who were not willing to attend – or even welcomed into – a traditional church’.

When I consider our study passage and the vision that the General experienced in the presence of God, I cannot help but wonder whether we – God’s people – are a living embodiment of those who have sat and been in the presence of God. In the first words of Isaiah 6, I recognised that, when we sit in the presence of God, the following three things happen: We see the Lord’s holiness and glory, we see our sinfulness, and we see the possibilities.

Some words captured me afresh: ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim … calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole Earth is full of his glory”’ (vv1–3).

Photo shows someone holding a map as they prepare to set out across verdant, misty hills.

Isaiah 6:7

With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'

Read Isaiah 6

The prophet Isaiah intentionally sits in God’s presence to be with him and to commune with him. Many of my biblical heroes and leaders of the faith recount times they have been with God. They experience awe and wonder as they are enraptured by God’s presence and majesty. For example: ‘When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him’ (Exodus 34:29 and 30).

I wonder whether we intentionally sit in God’s presence each day. I wonder if people see that we have been with Jesus.

Pause and reflect

  • When and how do we sit in the Lord’s presence to see and experience him?

On my journeys and adventures around the country, I almost always get a sense that I have gone the wrong way. It normally plays out something like this in my mind: ‘I’m sure this is the right way! I’ve been here before, haven’t I?’

As Isaiah sits in the presence of God, he becomes clearly aware of his own failings and sinfulness. He is overwhelmed by his reality: ‘Woe to me!… I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty’ (v5).

As I read this text, it becomes clear to me that, if we are not intentionally sitting in the presence of a holy God, our brokenness and failings have very little to be measured against. Indeed, we can allow the world to determine what is right and acceptable.

Pause and reflect

  • God – our holy God – is our barometer to measure against. Is it possible that we choose to not sit in God’s presence, or only remain for a limited time because of what he might highlight to us?

Sitting in the presence of God, we are compelled to go. General William Booth recognised that the world needed Jesus. He could not stand by and just accept what was going on; he was moved and called to action. Booth saw that the Church appeared to be stuck and unwelcoming to those on the margins of society.

In a post-pandemic world, it can feel as though we are stuck again. Alan Roxburgh, in Joining God in the Great Unraveling, helpfully suggests that this is a time for believers to be reminded of and reimagine what God requires from them.

As I read Isaiah 6, I sense that God is calling us to reflect the majesty of the holy God in a world that is in desperate need of hope and a future. Isaiah, in his broken humanity, simply had to respond: ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”’ (v8).

Pause and reflect

  • ‘Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God’ (1 Peter 1:18–21 The Message).
  • How aware are we of God, who is calling us to freedom, and to go to our neighbours and the whole world?
  • How will we respond?

Bible study by

Photo of Andrew Vertigan.

Major Andrew Vertigan

Territorial Pioneer and Fresh Expression Enabler, THQ

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